Do your research to avoid puppy farms

Getting a new dog is an exciting and rewarding experience, providing it is done correctly.

It is a huge commitment and not a decision to be made lightly.

Authorities are cracking down on these businesses, but as long as people buy puppies from these breeders they will continue to prosper.

Internet shopping means you can impulse-buy almost anything, including puppies. This has opened the door even wider to puppy farms.

Puppy farms are still very common, with breeders cleverly disguising the enterprise. They will usually have kennels where the dogs are farmed, although the welfare standards for domestically farmed animals far outstrip the conditions most of these dogs are kept in.

Bitches have their first litter at a very young age and are repeatedly bred until their bodies cannot cope. The health of the puppies is compromised, then worsened by the poor conditions.

They are likely to be from Europe and usually have a fake or doctored passport to get through border controls too young with an invalid rabies vaccine, or no vaccine at all. Authorities are cracking down on these businesses, but as long as people buy puppies from these breeders they will continue to prosper.

When buying your puppy there are a few key steps you can take.

Do your research. The Kennel Club has lists of registered breeders who must adhere to strict welfare guidelines. Ask to see the premises where the puppies are bred and raised, and ask to see some dogs. Multiple breeds are suspicious.

Many breeders have a waiting list. If a breeder says you can take a puppy that day it should raise suspicion.

Ask to see the litter when they are about four-weeks-old with their dam. Check the puppies seem bright and are interacting with each other, the breeder and the bitch. If she seems disinterested it could be because they are not hers. Many farms have a respectable facade of a family home where the puppies are sold, but not bred.

Ask the breeder about socialisation, worming and vaccination. When you collect your puppy they should be at least eight-weeks-old.

If at any point you are suspicious, do not buy and report the breeder to the council or RSPCA. Do not be tempted to ‘rescue’ it as this just creates a gap for another puppy to fill. If reported the dogs all stand a reasonable chance of a better home.

Further information can be found on the Dogs Trust or Kennel Club’s websites.

By Amy Chapman, Vet.